I’m a visual person and as I’m writing I often find myself on Flickr or YouTube looking for images and footage that will help me write. Just yesterday I was researching Mount Nebo in Jordan, using people’s holiday snaps and amateur videos to help me describe the landscape and setting. So I appreciate our guest post today from author Kate Lord Brown who talks about an interesting way to use photographs to get the creative juices flowing.
How do you write?
Do you ‘see’ your story flickering like images from a whirring projector, gradually gaining clarity and focus as you hone your words, as characters and locations gain color?
If you write visually, the truth of the old saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ will ring true. There’s no better way to kick start a story than to immerse yourself in the world you are writing about, but if you can’t time travel back to the 1930s, or hop on a plane to Spain, photographs are the next best thing.
Thanks to the web, you have millions of images at your fingertips to flick through until you find something that resonates with you and your story.
Roland Barthes talked about the way particular images affect us – he called it ‘punctum’, how a photograph pierces your soul.
Each story starts with images for me.
In the olden days, I’d make mood boards, and hang them over my desk. Now, of course, we have Pinterest, and I made a board for The Perfume Garden. Why not give it a try, and make a board for the book you are working on? It’s a great reference for your work, and a way of sharing your research.
These images are a shorthand to the story. Each one is a point from which storylines grew, and interconnected. Creative daydreaming, or boondoggling as I prefer to call it, gives your mind permission to ramble and the story to grow – I think of it as feeding, and watering a garden. Amassing resonant images, music, perfumes enriches your reserves – it ‘fills the well’ as Julia Cameron famously said.
Choose one photograph
Perhaps you have a story in hand, or maybe you are searching for inspiration? Today, why don’t you choose just one photograph, and take a really good look at it? Ask yourself:
- What strikes you first?
- Step back – what is the photo of? What’s going on?
- Are there people in the photograph? What can you figure out about them? Imagine each person’s name, their life, what they do just after the photo is taken.
- What’s hidden in the photograph – is it posed, or natural? What thoughts or emotions are the people hiding?
- What’s not shown in the photo? What lies beyond the image – the weather, the temperature, the smells and noises?
Run with the image – write a thousand words about just one photograph.
Sometimes all you need is a single spark for a story or novel – for some it’s a character who comes to them fully formed, or a passage by another writer, or a snatch of music. For me it’s always an image – in the case of The Perfume Garden, it was Robert Capa’s famous image of the falling soldier, taken during the Spanish Civil War.
How to use your images
Once you’ve amassed your images, there are all kinds of things you can do with them too. I made my first book trailer the other day. The images used are all (creative commons/royalty free or my own), photos I’d used as prompts during the writing of the novel, and began with a few torn out images pinned to a board above my desk years ago (you can see the original board if you scroll down here to ‘beginnings’.)
Whether you are the kind of writer who likes to rip images out of magazines and pin them on a cork board, or one who’s happiest virtually ‘pinning’ with Pinterest, why not give it a go, and see where a single photo can take you – probably way beyond a thousand words.
How do you use images to help create your story?
‘The Perfume Garden’ by Kate Lord Brown is published by Atlanticon June 1st 2012.
Available at Amazon
More about Kate: www.katelordbrown.com